In 2011, the UKCES (UK Commission For Employment and Skills) found that 38% of ‘hard to fill’ vacancies were due to lack of candidates with the required skills, and year on year this problem has been growing (by 2015 it was reported to be 69% of the ‘hard to fill’ vacancies). And last year it was stated by the LGA (Local Government Association) that Brexit could exacerbate this issue by as much as £90bn in our economy. It is a known problem – part of the LGA’s frustration is that there are too many different initiatives to help people learn the skills that are needed that it is now “confusing, fragmented, untargeted and ineffective”.
I suggest we are looking at the problem in the wrong way. Instead of focussing on the skills that you can add to a CV (that will then get ignored by employers who are looking for experienceas well as skills), put the focus on teaching people howto learn new skills, howto adapt their learning to keep up with changes in the world and in business. It is guaranteednow that any knowledge-based skills that you have are out of date almost immediately, given the rate of change we go through as the world becomes more and more online. When I was a trade floor support engineer, I had to be able to support hundreds of different software applications, both in-house (written by the organisation) and third party software such as Microsoft Word or Powerpoint. If I had to list every piece of software I have ever supported and all of the different versions I’ve supported, the CV would just be a long list of applications – and if you look at the CVs of a lot of support engineers, that is what they all do. But, the reason I was good at my job was my most under-represented skill on my CV – that of troubleshooting. I knew roughly how all applications worked, because the defaults of many applications are essentially the same (there is a menu, there is a settings option, you can make changes via an edit function etc.) so my real skill was in deciphering what I could from what I was given. Then as a hiring manager into those teams, I didn’t want someone who knew the last three versions of Microsoft Outlook – I wanted someone who I could put in front of a customer and who could fix their problem right there and then, without thinking that because it was a different version, they didn’t know it.
These holistic skills – troubleshooting, customer service, rapport building, analysis – are incredibly difficult to put on a CV in a way that truly reflects how proficient you are at them. The nearest thing we have is the “Key Achievements” section that lists out all of what we achieved using those skills – but the emphasis remains on what you didrather than howyou did it. Ask many recruitment agents and they will say that, based on the job descriptions given out by organisations, their ‘keyword search’ is based on skills not aptitudes.
The skills gap is not going to be filled by focussing on how we have done the jobs in the past, we need to focus on how we help people do the jobs of the future, and that is not going to come from looking at a CV to tell you the best person to hire.
0203 865 2877